Cancer Is My Name, by Renee Robinson

Nae's Nest —  March 31, 2013 — 1 Comment

Craving Life  Nov 7, 2009

This morning I found the articles below about a beautiful woman, Jen Merendino and her husband, Angelo.  Their story begins with Jen, newlywed of only 5 months, being diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. Like myself, they decided to document their story from the time of diagnosis until they reached the end of their journey Notice I do not refer to “her” journey. You see, Angelo shares Jen’s cancer as he helplessly walks this journey along with her.  It is terminal. It is ongoing.

A few weeks ago, I decided to relive the beginning of my journey.  I have traced back my steps and intend to dance through those steps all over again. This time around, I will be doing some editing, preparing and organizing in preparation for publishing.  My story continues, however instead of one novel, I believe it will be a series.

Like a story, life has a beginning, a middle and an end.  I am still dancing around the cadence of my story.  My music can be heard within the beauty of nature.  It is in the bird, in the wind, in the rain and in the crackle of a fire.

It is LIFE. I crave LIFE.

Excerpt 1 Dancing With Cancer: 

Together we will dance, much like a puppet on strings.

I wear the mask of cancer.

Many before me have worn this mask.

We are family.

Cancer consumes us.

It is on our minds when we fall asleep.

 It is on our minds when we awake.

Identity is lost.

We change physically.

We change emotionally.

We fight and are courageous

 We cry and lose hope.

Cancer consumes us.

We share the same steps

The same moves

The same agony

Together we will dance, much like a puppet on strings.

I am disabled, due to stage 4 colon cancer. Since my diagnosis, I have self-published 4 poetry books which reflect the emotional ups and downs of the Face of Cancer.

Those with cancer are my family.

Those touched personally by the hand of cancer, are now my family.

We wear the same mask,

We share the same face,

We are consumed,

Cancer is our identity.

My poetry reflects these feelings, my current novel will reflect these feelings as well. We Are The Face of Cancer

Sometimes I truly believe I am dying. I fight depression and cancer on a daily basis. On Dec 9, 2009, I was diagnosed with Colon Cancer. It has spread to 1 lymph node (stage 3) and has gone through a few layers of the colon wall. There are 3 types of colon cancer. Type 1 is the least aggressive; type 3 is the most aggressive. Mine is type 1. Chemotherapy will be Jan 12. I have been told I may not lose my hair. I will most likely feel very ill.

The thought of losing my hair truly does not bother me.

Lose Hair, Win Life …. when you think of it this way ….losing all of your hair really seems insignificant.

My goal is to stay free of cancer for the next 5 years.  Those lucky ones are officially considered to be cured. My surgeon is now my new best friend. I will see him every 3 months for the next 5 years. I will have bloodwork and other tests taken with each visit.

The dance is just beginning:

One morning I awoke with severe abdominal pain. I was currently suffering from a sinus, ear and respiratory infection. I also had the Flu. Thus, I believed the severe stomach cramps were just another horrible symptom. As the days progressed, I gradually recovered from my illness except for the ongoing abdominal pain. Finally, the pain became so bad, I could not stand or sit up. I stayed balled in a fetal position in bed. I went to the emergency room.

Initially, it was believed I was having a gall bladder attack. The pain centered just below my right breast and I had upper abdominal swelling. I was admitted to the hospital to prepare for emergency gall bladder surgery. Blood was drawn, CAT Scans, X-rays and a Cholescintigraphy or HIDA (scan of the gall bladder function) were all given. That evening, all of the test results were in. My gall bladder was in great health.

Puzzled, my surgeon began to ask more questions about my symptoms and family history. The following morning, before discharging from the hospital, I was scheduled to have both an Upper GI Endoscopy, and a lower Colonoscopy. It was rare for my Doctor to do both of the procedures at the same time, but in my case, he felt it was necessary. He explained that my symptoms which included terrible heartburn and diarrhea, made him think I had more than one problem. He felt it best to check my entire digestive system.   

by Renee Robinson

And now on to the  Merindino’s story:          

Your Afternoon Cry: Photographer Hauntingly Documents Late Wife’s Battle With Breast Cancer

 If you only read one wrenching, touching, tear-jerker of a story today, please make it this one.

Five months after New Yorkers Angelo and Jen Merendino were married, Jen was diagnosed with breast cancer. As the next four years of treatment and medications passed, which left then-39-year-old Jen fatigued, in a walker, staying for long stints in the hospital.

With each challenge we grew closer. Words became less important. One night Jen had just been admitted to the hospital, her pain was out of control. She grabbed my arm, her eyes watering, “You have to look in my eyes, that’s the only way I can handle this pain.” We loved each other with every bit of our souls. Jen taught me to love, to listen, to give and to believe in others and myself. I’ve never been as happy as I was during this time.

Angelo, a photographer, began to document her (and their) trials with intimate, powerful shots initially meant for their friends and family. The result is a chronological series of photographs of Jen throughout the course of her illness: laughing, sleeping, grimacing with pain, pushing the painkiller drip, putting on makeup, swimming in the ocean.

My photographs show this daily life. They humanize the face of cancer, on the face of my wife. They show the challenge, difficulty, fear, sadness and loneliness that we faced, that Jennifer faced, as she battled this disease. Most important of all, they show our Love. These photographs do not define us, but they are us.

Jen passed away a year and a half ago of Stage IV breast cancer. If you’re not already crying,this blog post about an alert Jen set on Angelo’s phone for the 22nd of every month, just a short time before she passed away (“Jennifer thinks Angelo is hot!”), should do you in. Fucking devastating. The Battle We Didn’t Choose [My Wife’s Fight With Breast Cancer]  Resource:  Photographer Angelo Merendino

AKRON, Ohio — Jennifer Merendino was an activist until the end. While battling breast cancer, she boldly used the power of blogs and photography to raise awareness about the disease, spur women to get mammograms and sound the alarm about environmental toxins. The 40-year-old Bath Township native died Dec. 22. Having made the decision to halt chemotherapy earlier in December after her condition worsened, she passed away in the peace of her New York City home, encircled by her husband, parents and relatives. The funeral is 11 a.m. Thursday at Blessed Trinity Church, 300 E. Tallmadge Ave., Akron. “Jennifer had a pretty raw deal handed to her. Until the end, she was graceful and positive and she just handled something really horrible in a beautiful and strong and encouraging way,” said her husband, Angelo, a photographer who detailed her daily struggles in stark black-and-white pictures. “She taught people. Throughout the whole thing, she shared her experience. She could have very easily been angry and turned inward, but she didn’t.” Some photos from his collection ( were featured in The Plain Dealer last month and were also displayed at an exhibition at 78th Street Studio in Ohio City. Gallery owner Daniel Bush said the photographs helped draw a crowd of more than 1,000 on opening night, including many who drove in from Akron. Although it wasn’t the type of fame anyone would choose for themselves, Merendino didn’t shy away from the spotlight after her cancer diagnosis. She blogged frequently at until last month, when her health began to fail. Five months ago, she posted a solemn video of herself on YouTube. With a bald head and wearing a black strapless top, she talked plainly about her tumors, treatments and the close relationships that made the pain more bearable. “This journey, although very difficult — beyond difficult — is just one that I wanted to share with you,” Merendino concluded while gazing into the camera. “Maybe share it with somebody that you love, to help them. And that’s my wish. Thank you.” She was the daughter of Camille and Larry Wise of North Ridgeville. A 1990 graduate of Revere High School in Summit County, she met her husband, who hails from Akron, in 2005. The couple lived in New York City. Five months after their 2007 wedding in Central Park, she received her breast cancer diagnosis. During her nearly four-year battle against the disease, Merendino researched environmental causes of cancers and even helped introduce eco-friendly changes at her workplace, Kiehl’s Cosmetics, and its parent company, L’Oreal, family members said. Her final weeks were happy, with relatives and friends arriving from out of town to say goodbye, her husband said. Also during that time, two women posted on a Facebook page that ‘Merendino’s story moved them to schedule their first mammograms. “It happened before she passed and I was able to tell her,” Angelo Merendino said. “As sad as it was, there were moments of great happiness and love, and I know that’s what Jennifer wanted.” Contributions may be made to the Jennifer Merendino Memorial Cancer Foundation at FirstMerit Bank to aid people with cancer. Arrangements are by Hennessy Funeral Home, Akron. Resource: Related topics: 78th street galleryangelo merendinobreast cancerdaniel bushjennifer merendino

Nae's Nest


I find myself "Dancing With Cancer", problem is...I can't dance. I stumble, bumble, and get pulled along. To keep my sanity, (humor me), I write short stories, a journal, musings and poetry....just about anything goes.

One response to Cancer Is My Name, by Renee Robinson


    i know cancer hurts…. not only the sufferer but his family also.. its like a never ending struggle with something you know will never end… still you just keep on trying till your last breath .. it hurts even more when you know you cant do anything to prevent it.. and it hurts even more when you the person is going tom die and is dying and you cant do anything about.. just let the person suffer in deep pain in agony.. my father died because of cancer.. and i wish that cancer was just a zodiac sign.. i would have my dad with me now..

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